Lexington, KY - Sophia Calamari is a USEF Pony Finals veteran - this year marks her sixth time making the trip from home in New Milford, PA to the Kentucky Horse Park. What makes this year a little extra special however is that it is her first year making that trip with Smitten. Thirteen-year-old Calamari got the small green pony two years ago and, under the instruction of Gary Duffy and Little Brook Farm, has been bringing him along herself since then. Today on the opening day of the 2014 USEF Pony Finals, Calamari and Smitten, or "Smitty," kicked things off in one of the best possible ways: by earning the highest score in the Small Green Pony Model and moving into the overall lead in the Small Green Pony division.
In addition to winning the Small Green Pony Model, Calamari rode Smitten to third place in the Small Green Pony Under Saddle rankings, which further secured the pair's spot atop the Small Green Pony overall leaderboard. The final division standings for the small ponies all come down to tomorrow's over fence classes, which kick off beginning at 8 a.m. in the Walnut Ring."He was a little bit tough when we got him, but he's worked through it," Calamari said. "Now he's amazing. He's very silly. He's great and serious on his back, but in the barn he likes to play a lot."
"It's really neat knowing that he could actually be champion," Calamari said, and win or lose she is happy to be here. "I love the atmosphere at Pony Finals and that it's all ponies and all of my friends. Everyone just has a really good time here."
Calamari is also competing throughout the week on her two other mounts: her medium pony, Power Trip, and her medium green pony, Boca's Unbridled Dreamer.
In the Large Pony division, there is another veteran rider hot on the heels of a championship - Ali Tritschler riding Dr. Betsee Parker's Enjoy the Laughter.
After a successful USEF Pony Finals last year, Tritschler said she was hanging up her hat in the pony ring and focusing on the junior and equitation divisions. That changed when her trainer, Timmy Kees of Norfield Stables LLC, got a phone call from Scott Stewart with an exciting offer that Tritschler could not refuse.
Stewart and Parker were looking for someone to ride Enjoy the Laughter, or "Maddox" at this year's Pony Finals, and Tritschler fit the bill perfectly.
"It's an opportunity that I thought would be really good for me," Tritschler said. "I'd never shown him before, so I showed at Fairfield, and I showed him again a couple of weeks ago at Lake Placid. He's really nice to ride because he's just like a big horse. He goes around just like my equitation horse does, so it's not that big of a switch for me. He doesn't go like a normal pony, and I think that's part of what makes him that pretty and stand out as much as he does."
Enjoy the Laughter bested 99 other ponies to take the blue ribbon in the Large Pony Hunter Model this morning, and he and Tritschler also rode away with the seventh place ribbon under saddle to give them the early lead in the overall Large Pony Model standings.
Earning today's blue ribbons under saddle were Emma Lemke and Brownland Miss Kimmy, owned by Brownland Farm, in the Small Green Pony division and Alexandra Pielet and Love and Logic, owned by Jill Shulman, in the Large Pony division.
Both pairs will be back tomorrow to vie for their championships as the Small Green Pony and Large Pony divisions come to a close. The Small Pony Hunters kick off tomorrow, with the Small Pony Model beginning at 7 a.m.
To learn more about the USEF Pony Finals please visit www.ponyfinals.org.